A Lost, Prophetic Austrian Film from 1924 that Parodies Anti-Semitism

June 12 2018

Released in 1924, the silent film A City without Jews, based on a book of the same title, imagines the expulsion of Jews from Vienna under a radical anti-Semitic government, and was intended to be a satire of the contemporary mood in Austria. While the movie’s existence has long been known to historians, only in 2016 was a complete reel discovered. Renee Ghert-Zand writes:

A Jewish man is beaten up on the street. Jewish husbands are separated from their non-Jewish wives and children and deported on trains. A Jewish community, led by rabbis carrying Torah scrolls, marches down a dark road as it is banished from town. . . .

Although [the original] book has characters clearly based on political figures of the day, the film is a bit looser in its characterizations. Yet, it is clear in the film that the Christian Socialists, [a real and influential anti-Semitic party] have come to power led by the fictional Chancellor Dr. Schwerdtfeger, a fanatical anti-Semite. Convinced that the Jews are ruining the republic, he has the National Assembly pass a law forcing all Jews to emigrate by the end of the year. The Jews—religious and assimilated alike—leave, taking with them whatever belongings they can carry with them.

Soon, everything starts to fall apart. Commerce slows down, the cosmopolitan cafés revert to seedy taverns, and the national currency goes into free fall. Realizing the terrible mistake that has been done, the National Assembly decides to pass a law welcoming the Jews back. . . .

The fate of [the book’s] author, Hugo Bettauer, is one reason why the book and film have not been forgotten. A Jew who converted to . . . Christianity, [Bettauer] was lethally shot by a Nazi named Otto Rothstock. He died on March 26, 1925 at age fifty-two. . . . The film’s director, [however], went on to join the Nazi party.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Austria, Austrian Jewry, Film, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Vienna

 

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror